The Watchdog Index: What you can do with $42 million

What would it look like if campaign funds were used elsewhere? Here’s what we found.

Editor’s note: This is the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting’s second annual Watchdog Index, modeled after Harper’s Magazine’s “Harper’s Index” ©, a listing of “ironic statistics arranged for thoughtful effect.” 

This year the basis of our Index comes from the state and federal campaign finance reports that show that for the 2014 election in Maine, candidates, PACS and committees spent a whopping $42,148,934.88 on everything from the governor’s race to the U. S. Senate to local House and Senate elections. The money went to the usual places — for TV ads, consultants, mailings and pizza for campaign workers.

But what if that money were used for something else?

The Watchdog Index 2014

Percentage of Maine children not getting dental care who could get annual exams and cleanings for five straight years: 100

Gallons of gas that could be bought for every voter: 24

Number of football fields that could be covered by all the $1 dollar bills spent on the Maine campaigns: 84.29

Number of years 20 local farms could provide fresh produce to Maine soup kitchens and pantries: 42

Number of Mount Katahdins equal to a stack of all the $1 dollar bills: 3

Amount that could be put into a college fund for each Maine child 5 and under: $705

Number of years that a daily free school breakfast and lunch could be provided to each eligible student: 5.37

Amount of money that could be given to each Maine family living below the poverty level: $1,915.86.

Amount of money that could be spent to help each Maine child living in poverty: $936.64.

Number of homes that could be weatherized with basement and attic insulation: 5,268

Percent of all the homes in Washington County that could be weatherized: 37

Percent of adult population of New England that could get a small coffee and a whoopie pie: 100

Number of Maine families that could get silver-level health care plans under Obamacare: 12,455

Percentage of Mainers lacking health care insurance that would be covered: 33

Amount spent for each vote cast on the Nov. 4 election: $68.31

Miles of state roads that could be rebuilt: 45.24

Number of Maine students who could get full four-year scholarships to the University of Maine: 504.

Percentage of Maine public high school valedictorians who could get a full four-year scholarship at UMaine: 100

Number of rail cars that could be retrofitted to meet new oil safety standards: 1,429

Number of rail cars that would still have to be retrofitted: 64,571

Number of pairs of L. L. Bean boots that could be bought: 386,683

Amount left over after all the Maine victims of non-violent crimes have been paid the restitution they are owed: $30.1 million

Estimated number of Jon Lester pitching seasons that could be paid for: 1.6

Number of kids who could attend a Rex Sox game in 2015: 6,671 at every home game

Number of years 400 homeless teenagers could be given a place to live: 5

Percentage of Maine’s 130,985 veterans and a spouse or partner who could get a nine-course thank-you dinner at the White Barn Inn Restaurant in Kennebunkport: 97.73


Sources: State and federal records and news reports


John Christie

John Christie is the co-founder, former publisher and former senior reporter of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting. He has covered local, state and national politics as a reporter, editor and publisher at newspapers in Maine, Massachusetts and Florida and holds a BA in political science from the University of New Hampshire.

Naomi Schalit

Naomi Schalit is a co-founder of the Maine Center for Public Interest Reporting, which operates The Maine Monitor.
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